Every couple of days, I go round and check out Juliette’s blog, because she’s very funny. She’s the origin of David Cameron’s Homeric new epithet, the Buttered New Potato. These visits have paid off in links lately, too, to blogs that focus on that other great conflict of Western society that is not libertarian vs. authoritarianism: relations between the sexes.
This blogular phenomenon had, until recently, passed me by, but now that I’m in the know, I’m fascinated. I have always read one or two feminist blogs, and now I’ve been introduced to anti-feminist blogs.
The anti-feminist position, as far as I can tell, is that the feminist movement has led to the breakdown of the family, injustice in the legal code, the reduction of freedoms, and the rise of socialism. No-fault divorce, easy birth control, alimony and custody laws that automatically favour the woman, the relative lack of shame heaped upon promiscuity and single motherhood, women pursuing careers: these have all disrupted society.
As with any blogular topic, you find wild variations on the theme. There is Roissy, whom Juliette calls He Who Must Not Be Named, presumably because she enjoys reading his blog (it’s very well written and entertaining) but feels a bit sick afterward.* I particularly like Roissy, however, not just because he wrote the best eulogy for Ted Kennedy I’ve read. He’s essentially an hedonic anarchist, which is an absolutist point of view I can completely respect. There is also the Female Misogynist, who chronicles all the dreadful stuff women can be found doing, like raping teenage boys and murdering their own children; there is Novaseeker, who writes long and well researched posts about the marginalisation of men in Western culture.
As usual, I can see the validity of both sides of the argument. Many women the world over are treated appallingly by the men in their society. This is not so much the case in the West, but certainly there is still sexual objectification of women. And it doesn’t seem fair to me, because I personally enjoy working and having sex without getting pregnant, to assert that the best place for a woman to be is in the home looking after the children.
On the other hand, it also seems clear that feminism is being used to ill effect: the legal system that favours mothers, affirmative action, everything Harriet Harman does, state support for single motherhood when every study shows that living in a one-parent household is bad for children.
Some of these blogs also argue that women are mentally and temperamentally unsuited for the things they’re doing in this modern, feminist world: women make decisions based on emotion and expedience; women overwhelmingly vote for a provider state; women appease the perpetrators of injustice rather than challenge them. The blogs call this ‘evo psych’ and declare that biological science proves all of these assertions true. Again, I can see where this case is coming from. I don’t know if it’s true that women are less objectively rational than men, or whether it’s a result of nature or nurture. (Mind you, I think irrational behaviour stems ultimately from a desire that reality not be what it is, and men are just as capable of wishing that as women.)
Ultimately, however, I am a libertarian, so my only real analytical reaction to this debate is how either side squares with my libertarian principles (or not). And what it all boils down to, for me, is where the restrictions on freedom lie. On the feminist side, and I’ve said this before, the pursuit of ‘women’s rights’ is being used to develop a partisan legal system, particularly when it comes to family law, and to reduce the efficiency and profitability of our economy by shoehorning people into jobs (for which they may be unqualified) simply by virtue of their sex. Forcing an unfair legal system and unfair employment regulations onto a populace in the name of fairness is inherently nonsensical.
On the anti-feminist side, there is absolutely no justification for preventing women from voting, or preventing women from working in jobs for which they are qualified. The ‘common good’ carries no weight with me. It may well be that in doing these things, collectively women are harming society; but as long as their individual pursuit of happiness causes no specific harm to any other individual, I see no reason why women shouldn’t be allowed to do as they please.
Naturally, therefore, I can agree with neither side really. Both feminists and anti-feminists appear to wish to force their values and world-view on everybody else. This attitude is fundamentally incompatible with libertarianism. And incidentally, I think the attitude stems from the sort of positivist-rights culture in which we now live, where ‘rights’ basically consist of whatever anybody thinks he’s entitled to, rather than basic human liberties protected from infringement by an impartial rule of law. Neither the oppression of women nor the oppression of men would be possible if it weren’t for the positivist state that colludes in identity politics and thinks it has a mandate to try to cure all of society’s ills.
I’m not the first to examine this debate in terms of libertarianism, either; this essay on libertarianism and Roissyism is vaguely insightful, although I’m sceptical of his conclusion that ‘Libertarianism and “Roissy-ism” have the same goal in common: minimize government intrusion in our lives.’ The goal of Roissyism appears to be to take advantage of the cultural breakdown to score as much sex as possible with the most attractive women possible; but certainly the philosophical basis of this goal is the maximisation of personal happiness. Although that’s certainly part of libertarian philosophy, I’d contend that what Roissy and the author of this essay, miss out is Mill’s harm principle. But then, neither of them is writing an opus of cultural and political philosophy, so I may have an incomplete perspective.
*The height of Roissy’s genius is introducing to me the concept of the shit-test. Women definitely do this. I’m guilty of it myself – in fact, I would go so far as to say that almost all the arguments I’ve ever had in relationships are the result of my shit-testing. Roissy blames it on evo psych – he claims it’s one of the ways women judge the alphaness (or lack thereof) of a man. He’s probably right; but shit-testing needs to stop, because in the end, it’s completely counterproductive. I’ll even put my money where my mouth is, and pledge to suppress the urge to shit-test here and now.